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Saturday, 11 November 2017

"I hate divorce!"

The title to this post is in quotation marks because it is a quotation! It is, in fact, the word of YHWH, through His servant and prophet, Malachi, and is the third criticism of the Children of Israel of the time - their failure to uphold the sanctity of their marriage vows. And there are those, even within the church, who think that the Old Testament scriptures are irrelevant!! 

The people, it seems, were no better than the priests at whom we looked in the previous post. They, too, had rejected a solemn agreement given to them by YHWH and, as a result, He had withheld His blessing from them. His message, through Malachi, to those who had broken their marriage vows, was simple, straightforward, and incapable of misunderstanding: "... I hate divorce, says YHWH the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says YHWH Sabaoth. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless." It is interesting, is it not, that God even equates divorce with violence?!

What, we may wonder, would Malachi say if he were alive today? Statistics for the UK are not up-to-date, but the ONS (Office of National Statistics) estimate that some 40% of UK marriages end in divorce. There was a slight drop a couple of years ago, but I would suggest that that was because of the lower number actually entering into a marriage covenant, choosing instead to cohabit, as cohabitation separation is not included in the statistics.

Now I am aware that the issues relating to divorce are often very complex. However, it must be stated that the God-given pattern is one husband with one wife, for life. This is confirmed by the Lord Jesus, Himself: "And Pharisees came up to Him and tested Him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery." (Matt.19:3-9).

So, divorce, while hated by Almighty God, is permitted because of the hardness of the hearts of men and women. However, as is so often the case, Jesus takes the matter further by stating that a divorcee who remarries is committing adultery. Not only that, but it is, effectively, perpetual adultery! If I have a "one-night-stand", or even an affair that lasts for many months I am, as a married man, committing adultery. However, like the prodigal son, I may "come to my senses" and if I confess my sin to Father God, and am truly repentant, then I may receive His forgiveness. However, if I divorce my wife, and enter into a second marriage relationship, only a life of celibacy could stop me committing adultery on a regular basis!

I would suggest that if we saw divorce as God sees it, then we would approach marriage problems with a good deal more determination to resolve them than many appear to do at present. Human nature is such that when the initial romance - the "being in love" - begins to fade in a marriage, it is all too easy to develop a roving eye, and a flirtatious attitude, and so slip into an adulterous relationship. May I emphasise that I am not judging anyone! Jesus also made it clear "... that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matt.5:28) and, by that standard I, like any red-blooded, heterosexual male, am a serial adulterer! However, the thought is not, in fact, as bad as the deed in God's eyes! Jesus made that point, and others, to show some Pharisees that, just because they did not physically commit certain sins, did not mean that they were sinless!

Divorce and "remarriage" also have a strong bearing on those who would be in leadership within the church - read I Timothy 3: 1-13; Titus 1:5-9. However, if we choose God's ways of faithfulness, and loyalty, then we shall experience His blessing on our marriages. In an age in which there is such an acceptance of divorce as the only viable solution to marital problems (and I reiterate, that I am aware that the issues relating to divorce are often very complex) let those of us who claim to be the adopted children of the heavenly Father, resist such a pressure with all of the energy available to us; and seek to resolve any marital problems by the Word of God, and in the power of God the Holy Spirit. Let us also encourage others to be faithful to their marriage vows, and to seek His help in any difficulty.

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